One: Apple Watch with Family Setup

This year, the big Christmas gift for our son Charlie was his own Apple Watch, which we’re able to set up to work without a phone via Apple’s Family Setup feature.

Charlie is approaching the age when he can and should be given some more independence, like taking the Metro home from school. But despite his protestations to the contrary, he isn’t ready for the responsibility of a whole phone and the host of pitfalls that come with it. (I shorthand that stuff as “porn-and-Nazis” though of course there’s more to it than that.) But we realized that we probably ARE, as a family, ready for him to have the actual phone features (calls and texts to approved contacts), plus things like… directions, GPS tracking of his location*, a way to pay for things while out and about. An Apple Watch gets us those features without all the stuff he needs a few more years to grow into.

*I realize that the GPS tracking is a fraught topic, but he is nine and learning to navigate public transportation. He’s still in the phase where “Mom and Dad know exactly where I am right now” is a comforting thought, not an oppressive one.

We have mostly been pretty pleased with how Family Setup works for this, but the two big oversights are, in our opinion:

  1. There’s no way to add a transit card for a child under 13. Since a specific goal for us is to enable Charlie to navigate the Metro independently, this feels like an especially serious miss.
  2. Only one parent can manage the Watch, set Schooltime limits on usage, see reports on whether he’s exiting Schooltime during the day, etc. In our family, where the parents are married and live together, this is merely annoying (if I take Charlie somewhere on a weekday and want him to have access to his Watch’s features, I have to ask Tom to turn off Schooltime for me before we leave), but plenty of kids have parents in two households where maybe one parent having to ask the other one for simple administrative things like this would be a source of friction. This can and should be done better.

Tom has a detailed writeup of his overall impressions on his blog that I recommend if this is a setup you’re considering for your family.

Now that he’s had it for a little more than a week, it’s been interesting to see how it’s becoming a way for him to mediate his relationships himself. He’s able to call a friend of his who moved away (and also got an Apple Watch this year) instead of waiting for the adults to match up our schedules for playdates. He can text his grandparents. With Tom away this week for some last-minute travel, we set up a family group text chain so we can all stay connected as a group.

Two: Amigurumi Christmas

The last time I wrote one of these, I mentioned giving myself a project to crochet little yetis for a bunch of people in my life. I managed to turn out four yetis total (one from the kit and three more from my supplies), plus an Among Us crewmate, a Pokéball, and an octopus that I had intended to put in my office, but which Charlie liked so much he claimed it as well as the two video game themed pieces I had made for him. I did this with mostly an hour or two of crochet time per day. I’m not super fast to begin with, and most of my time for it is at the end of the day, when I’m tired, especially if I’m in the later stage of making a gift for Charlie and have to wait to pull it out so he doesn’t recognize it while I’m working on it.

In buying supplies for this amigurumi adventure, I bought a bag of polyester fiber-fill that was considerably larger than I expected, which I have barely made a dent in. So I’ll need to decide on more amigurumi projects in order to use it up.

Three: Food Politics

I really enjoyed this Noema Magazine piece on Italian food, and how it has been influenced, and is being influenced, by geopolitics, immigration, and climate change. It’s a well known trope of Italian culture to have passionate opinions of how specific foods should be prepared, but the irony is that the area we think of as Italy (which wasn’t even a unified nation until 1861) has been conquered and re-conquered so many times that almost none of what we think of as “Italian food” has its origins in Italy.

As an American with Italian heritage, this feels pretty much par for the course for me; the food traditions I identify with my own family are really Italian-American, and if you want to be very specific, they are Sicilian-American, the kinds of things poor Sicilian peasants who came to America around the turn of the 20th century ate when they were making do with what they could find and what they could afford, influenced over time by intermarriage and assimilation.

This resistance to innovation can be funny when it’s Giada de Laurentiis’ cousin giving her a hard time on camera about adding lemon zest to a carbonara, saying “It’s not traditional,” while also admitting that she buys her cheese pre-grated because who has time to grate it themselves. It’s not at all funny when populist politicians are demagoguing themselves into office by complaining about couscous vs. polenta and stoking animosity against African immigrants.

Four: Professional Reading

I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Tomer Cohen, head of Product at LinkedIn. I’m only just over a year into my role as a Product Manager, so I love reading other product peoples’ thinking. The phrase “We might be wrong, but we aren’t confused” is going to stick with me for a while.

I also ran across a Twitter thread about how PM “influencers” are frequently people who have not actually worked as PMs in many years. Lots of theories on that, chief among them being that product work is so hard and intensive that you can’t do that AND do the work necessary to promote your brand as an influencer, but… from that conversation I was tipped to r/ProductManagement as a great source of insight and wisdom from people currently working in Product. I spend very little time on Reddit, but just in perusing the posts I can see there’s some gold to be found in there.

Five: A Look Back…

2022 felt like a whirlwind after all the intensity of 2020-2021. Between business travel and personal travel I was on the road a lot, but in the bargain I visited two new countries plus Disney (which is like a new country), my team (and I) hit our stride at work, I’ve made progress on personal projects… But it also feels like a year of recalibrating. 2021 was tumultuous and all the stress and anxiety sort of blew up in my face in a fairly spectacular fashion, so 2022 has really been about zealously guarding my peace and focusing on priorities.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but I do have some things I’m hoping to add personally and professionally. More on that soon.